Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

Maxine Kumin

 
          How did we get to be old ladies—
          my grandmother's job—when we
          were the long-leggèd girls?
— Hilma Wolitzer
Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this,
I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine
the original manuscript
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen,
I, who had never been west of the Mississippi,
should have crossed the ocean
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War
when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over
a fence line.  How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.
Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked
till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper . . .  
Why didnít I go? It was fated.
Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl.
 
From Still to Mow by Maxine Kumin. Copyright © 2008 by Maxine Kumin. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

In the Park by Maxine Kumin
You have forty-nine days between
Jack by Maxine Kumin
How pleasant the yellow butter
Purgatory by Maxine Kumin
And suppose the darlings get to Mantua,
The Hermit Goes Up Attic by Maxine Kumin
Up attic, Lucas Harrison, God rest
Where I Live by Maxine Kumin
is vertical
Woodchucks by Maxine Kumin
Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.


Further Reading

Poems About Aging
Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree
by D. A. Powell
Affirmation
by Donald Hall
Age
by Robert Creeley
Age and Death
by Emma Lazarus
Almost Sixty
by Jim Moore
Beyond the Years
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Blues
by Elizabeth Alexander
Demeter in Paris
by Meghan O'Rourke
E.H.
by John Koethe
El Dorado
by Edgar Allan Poe
Fear of the Future
by John Koethe
First Gestures
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Fixed Interval
by Devin Johnston
Forgetfulness
by Billy Collins
Gerontion
by T.S. Eliot
Get Up, Please
by David Kirby
In View of the Fact
by A. R. Ammons
Moonlight
by Sara Teasdale
My Lost Youth
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My Skeleton
by Jane Hirshfield
Poem at Thirty
by Michael Ryan
Preparation
by Effie Waller Smith
Quiet
by Tony Hoagland
Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets
by Thomas Lynch
Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen
Self-Portrait
by Adam Zagajewski
Since Nine—
by C. P. Cavafy
The Chicago Poem
by Jerome Rothenberg
The Edges of Time
by Kay Ryan
The Human Seasons
by John Keats
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
The Widows of Gravesend
by L. S. Asekoff
The Young Man's Song
by W. B. Yeats
this kind of fire
by Charles Bukowski
To a Young Girl at a Window
by Margaret Widdemer
To Chloe: Who for his sake wished herself younger
by William Cartwright
To Earthward
by Robert Frost
to my last period
by Lucille Clifton
To Think of Time
by Walt Whitman
Two Horses and a Dog
by James Galvin
When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats
Poems for Anniversaries
A Man Meets a Woman in the Street
by Randall Jarrell
Couple Sharing a Peach
by Molly Peacock
Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri
by Mona Van Duyn
Francesco and Clare
by David St. John
I Married You
by Linda Pastan
Let Me Disappear
by Ray Gonzalez
Man and Wife
by Robert Lowell
My Wife
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Orpheus
by Robert Kelly
The Anniversary
by Elaine Terranova
The Anniversary
by John Donne
The Elephant is Slow to Mate
by D.H. Lawrence
The Storm
by Theodore Roethke
The Sympathies of the Long Married
by Robert Bly
To My Dear and Loving Husband
by Anne Bradstreet